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Donnie's Tree , student work at Big Bear City Fest

California’s Big Bear City Film Festival Showcases Papa G Studio’s Donnie’s Tree

It’s good to know there are professional films coming from student filmmakers. Writer/director, and producer Isung Hwang, has brilliantly created Donnie’s Tree, a short film about an elderly man’s desire to come to terms with his wife by means of a kumquat tree. As a graduate student at Chapman University in Orange County, California, Insung created his characters, plot, and locations all in a 7 day shooting schedule for this 22 minute film.

Cinematographer, John Ames, (Ghost Stores, The Appointment) provides a picturesque, rich colored landscape of the California desert-scape. His technique and Insung’s choice of 35mm film, the way a true production is meant to be, compliments this festival favorite. The point of depicting the elderly as main characters brings to mind Ron Howard’s Cocoon (1985). As in this Jessica Tandy comedic-drama, Insung brings to life an emotional husband and wife, to the tune of a young couple. At first the audience sees Donnie (Ian Sarsen Druid) as his wife’s puppet, being told when to cook dinner, how to act, and even to what to do with his beloved tree. When his wife, Carmen (Angela McEwan) replaces his tree with her new kumquat tree, he is furious, but still lives under her command.

When Donnie discovers the tree has traits beyond fruit production he only then believes to be free. Donnie’s Tree is alone worth watching until the end for Donnie’s depicted desire to be back with his “witch” of a wife. The poison turned aphrodisiac of a tree keeps the audience attentive towards the outcome of Carmen’s destiny.

It’s great to know a male filmmaker can produce such inclinations towards a red dress, a hope for improved romance, and a couple’s love-making all within elderly characters. After all, at one time or another, we all wonder whether our grandparents sleep in the same bed.

You can look forward to watching Donnie’s Tree at The Big Bear Film Festival (California) in September. As a finalist at the Kansas City Film Festival the film also counts Syracuse International Film & Video Festival, IFP Cinema Lounge, and numerous others towards its welcomed audience-accepted screenings.

By Michelle Paster

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